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If you’re looking for a family beach vacation combined with the magic of The Walt Disney Company, a Disney Cruise Line sailing to Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island, could be just the ticket for you! These Castaway Cay tips will ensure you soak up every magical moment during your time on the island.
Disney’s Castaway Cay Tips
1. “Cay” is Pronounced “Key”
From the spelling, you might not guess that “cay” is actually pronounced “key,” similar to “Key West.” According to Encyclopedia Britannica, a cay is “a small, low island, that’s usually sandy and situated on a coral reef platform.” Castaway Cay is 1,000 acres of pure tropical bliss, located in The Bahamas.
2. Castaway Cay Was Very Minimally Impacted by Hurricane Dorian
Only tropical force strength winds were experienced on Disney Castaway Cay during Hurricane Dorian. When my family of four visited at the end of September, we received communication that the landscaping and foliage would be the most notable impacts, which didn’t seem severely damaged to us.
A few experiences were unavailable and a play structure was being repaired, but future guests should not notice any impacts from Hurricane Dorian and cruise ships will continue to stop there.
Dorian did make landfall on neighboring Great Abaco and Grand Bahama islands. The Walt Disney Company, led by Disney Cruise Line, committed more than $1 million in cash and in-kind support to help those in The Bahamas affected by Hurricane Dorian.
3. There’s More Available on the Island Than You Might Expect
A lot of people departing cruise ships are surprised by all that is offered on Castaway Cay. Mom Katey Rybski said, “I wish we had a little better understanding of the layout and what to do before we arrived; but once we figured it out, we had a great time.”
Review a map in advance to get yourself acquainted with the island. You’ll find one in your stateroom or you can view this Castaway Cay map.
Read on for more activities. “I would have liked TWO days on Castaway Cay,” says mom Tammy Kruszewski.
4. No Need to Bring Towels or Wallets
Pack light for your day at Castaway Cay. You can use your “Key to the World” card for any transactions, such as purchasing souvenirs or specialty drinks. Complimentary beach towels are located on the island. Avoid lugging wet, heavy towels around with you all day.
All you really need is sunscreen. But if you forget that- don’t worry, you can purchase it on the island. Beach wheelchairs and strollers are also available.
5. Castaway Cay Souvenirs are Unique to the Island
Castaway Cay souvenirs are only available on the island. They can’t be purchased on the ship. So if you’re looking for exclusive beach duds, hats, and collectible pins with the Castaway Cay logo, make your way to She Sells Sea Shells… and Everything Else!
Interested in Disney pin trading? Check out our guide full of Disney Pin trading tips.
“I really enjoyed finding the unique island pins,” says dad Nick Deka. And don’t worry about having to carry your purchases around with you all day. A Disney Cruise Line staff member can bring them back to the ship for you.
6. Purchase a Fully Stocked Soft Cooler on the Ship
You can buy a soft Disney cooler stocked with beer, water, and ice on-board the ship. That way you’re all set to be refreshed at any moment on the island. Just ask your dining staff about this option. There are also free water, soda, and ice cream stations on the island as well.
7. Send Speed Walkers Ahead to Snag Ideal Spots at the Beach
Four-time Disney cruiser and mom of three, Heather Mikulskis, recommends sending your quickest walkers ahead to secure spots at the beach. “Then the rest can take their time getting there,” she says. Trams also transport passengers to the beaches; however the walk isn’t too long and is quite scenic.
8. The Family Beach on Castaway Cay is Bustling but Relaxing
The Family Beach has tons of beach chairs, umbrellas, and hammocks to lounge the day away in by the crystal-clear, tranquil turquoise waters. Families are calm, cooling off, and laughing their cares away in the soft, powdery white sand. “Castaway Cay is a toes in the water, bottom in the sand kind of day,” says mom to three young boys, Heather Mikulskis. “The day flies by!”
9. Adults Lounge, Eat, and Do Yoga at Serenity Bay
Serenity Bay, the beach reserved exclusively for those ages 18 and over, is located about a mile away from the main family beach. Enjoy swaying palm trees and special amenities just for adults, such as open-air massages and yoga class steps away from the clear waters. Two-person hammocks, a lunch buffet, and Castaway Air Bar keep you feeling refreshed.
10. Children Play at Scuttle’s Cove on Castaway Cay
Kids ages 3 to 12 can be securely checked-in at Scuttle’s Cove to enjoy activities staffed by trained counselors from the ship. They can splash in a water play area or dig for artificial whale bones. Other fun activities include team water balloon challenges, sand castle building, and beach parties.
11. Teens Have Their Own Hide Out
Hide Out is a secluded section just for teens ages 14-17. There, they can hang out with other teens, listen to music, and soak up the sun next to the beach volleyball and soccer areas. Teenagers will enjoy opportunities to make new friends in their own independent setting.
12. Rent a Private Cabana
If you’re looking for some privacy and a bit of added luxury on Castaway Cay, you can rent your own premium cabana. Located along the far side of the Family Beach as well as on Serenity Bay, enjoy sensational views of the cruise ship from you own patio deck. Perfect for families with little ones who need to take naps or for couples looking for some quiet time together.
13. Run or Walk the Castaway Cay 5k for Fitness in Paradise
While you do have to wake up early to participate in the 5k, you also get to be one of the first groups to exit the ship on Castaway Cay. “The Castaway Cay 5k was a great bonding experience for my wife and daughter,” says dad Nick Deka.
Kids must be 10 years of age or older to participate. “It was hot, but I ran in paradise and got a fun medal,” says mom Tammy Kruszewski. Tammy recommends picking a unique meeting spot to locate family after the race, such as a particular gift shop.
14. Swim to Pelican’s Plunge for Splashtastic Water Slides
Floating in the ocean, you’ll find a 2,400- square foot platform called Pelican’s Plunge. It features two water slides, a dump bucket, and water cannons. “My kids loved Pelican’s Plunge,” says dad Nick Deka. “It’s fun and free!”
You must be 38” to ride and it’s singles only (no double riders). We experienced about a 30-minute wait to ride the slides. The tube slide was fast. The open slide is better for younger children.
15. Spring-a-Leak is a Great Splash Pad for Little Ones
Toddlers and preschoolers will love cooling off in this cute splash pad where jets squirt and spray. Parents will appreciate the storm-ravaged theme complete with dripping pipes and hissing misters. The nautical flags help keep the area cute and cool. Stand by and watch your little ones squeal in delight as they splash in the fountains.
16. Discover Sunken Treasure in the Snorkeling Lagoon
There’s a 12-acre Snorkeling Lagoon with colorful, tropical fish not far from the Family Beach. But the best part about it is the sunken surprises you’ll find, like shipwrecks (including a submarine from the classic Disney attraction 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea), and statues of Mickey and Minnie.
Buoys help mark the spots so the treasures are easier to locate. “It was really exciting when we spotted the sunken ship and the Mickey,” says mom Katey Rybski.
You can rent snorkeling equipment or bring your own. If you bring your own snorkeling gear, just know that you’ll need to borrow a yellow lifejacket (for free) before you jump in.
This activity is best for kids ages five and up who are pretty strong swimmers. “Our youngest is seven years old and we found all the underwater treasures,” says dad Nick Deka.
17. Sip an Olaf-inspired Drink
New to Castaway Cay is Summertime Freeze, a beverage stand serving non-alcoholic frozen drinks like “Sven’s Carrot Delight” and “Olaf’s Flurry Freeze” in souvenir Frozen cups. Cool down with these fun, frozen sippers.
And yes, the Carrot Delight does actually have carrot juice in it! But it’s hard to tell because this tropical smoothie also includes coconut cream, passion fruit juice and guava juice.
18. Send a Postcard from the Castaway Cay Post Office
Castaway Cay actually has it’s own post office! So if you plan ahead, you can use a free postcard in your stateroom to send a message to family and friends back home. Or purchase a postcard on the island.
Drop it in the mailbox before you get back on the ship. It’ll be postmarked Castaway Cay. How cool!
19. Don’t Wait Too Late for Lunch
All-you-can-eat lunches are served under covered pavilions at Cookie’s BBQ and Cookie’s Too. Don’t miss the beautiful fresh fruit buffets before you hit up the free ice cream cones! Just make sure to get to lunch by 1:30pm as the lunch buffets close at 2pm.
20. Crew Members are There to Ensure You Have a Great Day
Crew members are all around the island to help you have a wonderful time. You may even notice your dining crew from the ship helps serve lunch on the island.
The fact that the same service staff accompanies you along the way is especially helpful if you have allergies, dietary restrictions, or picky eaters in your group. Our dining crew ensured our gluten-free daughter had meals she was satisfied with, even on Castaway Cay.
21. After Lunch is a Great Time for Hammocks
In the afternoon, many families head back to the ship for naps and time out of the sun. When Castaway Cay starts to quiet down, I found it the perfect time to grab a hammock, sway in the sun, and relax.
22. Catch Character Photo Opps while on Castaway Cay
Character photos are even more fun when they’re in island attire with palm trees and crystal-clear waters in the backdrop. Many characters make appearances on Castaway Cay, some moving and grooving at an onshore Dance Party.
Plus you’ll also see many on your walk to and from the ship. Check your Personal Navigator if there are particular ones you don’t want to miss.
23. Get Your Game On In Da Shade
If you need to take a break from the sun or just want to try your hand at some games, In Da Shade is a great place to go. There’s table tennis, foosball, basketball, and more. My family got a kick out of our afternoon shuffleboard game.
24. Enjoy an Excursion or Rent a Bike or Inner Tube
Several excursions are available on Castaway Cay, including parasailing, glass bottom boat tours and stingray adventures. You even rent your own personal watercraft or have your teen go on their own teens only excursion.
My family of four enjoyed tube, bicycle, and snorkel rentals. You can choose between a mat float or round inner tube. Recline in the sunshine and ride the gentle waves by the sand bar.
When you’re ready to ride bicycles, there’s a 1.5-mile trail where you cross an airstrip and can take in the scenic island vegetation. Bicycles and helmets in various sizes are available to choose from.
25. Get Married or Renew Your Vows on Castaway Cay
Exchange vows in a romantic, beach-side ceremony on Castaway Cay or on-board your Disney cruise ship. A Disney Wedding Planner will take care of all the details so you can have the fairy-tale ceremony of your dreams. Sam Jones, Hotel Director, says there are typically two to three weddings per voyage.
26. Extend the Magic of Your Vacation at Walt Disney World
If your Disney cruise is departing from Florida, it’s a great idea to tack some days at Walt Disney World onto your vacation. Even if you can’t visit the theme parks, I recommend leaving home a day early to stay at a Walt Disney World Resort and ensure you don’t miss your ship’s departure.
Check out Trekaroo’s Walt Disney World Tips.
Once, I woke my son up at the crack of dawn for a flight the same day as a cruise departure. We were so exhausted by the time we got on the ship that we didn’t fully enjoy our embarkation day. Plus, if you experience any flight delays, you risk the ship leaving without you. Not fun.
For this trip, my family of four enjoyed our first night at Disney Yacht Club Resort. We got to unwind from work and travel at this gorgeous, New England nautical-themed lakeside resort where our kids enjoyed the water slide and pool. In the morning, we had the most delightful breakfast (including Mickey waffles and breakfast pizza) before being whisked off for our Disney Dream cruise.
Looking to plan more grand Disney adventures? We have guides to take the stress out of designing a Disney vacation perfect for your family.
Disclosure: The writer and her family were hosted by Disney Cruise Line on a Disney Dream sailing to Castaway Cay. All opinions are the writer’s own.
Lead Photo Courtesy of Disney Cruise Line. Diana Zalucky, photographer